Chapter 6: When Love and Hate Collide
"Hey Justin!" Katie called to him as he mounted Rocket outside of the track.
"Hey you! What are you up to?" he looked down at her.
"Not much, just coming out to watch you ride Rocket." she said, wheeling herself towards the track fence.
"I bet you can't wait to get out of that chair!" Justin said as he walked Rocket out onto the track.
"It won't be long now! I'm ready to get back up in the saddle!" she exclaimed as John came down from the house, ready to time Rocket's run.
"Don't get too excited!" John said to her. "We need to take things slow!"
"Yeah! Just take your time!" Justin repeated. Katie suddenly realized that he didn't want her to take his job too soon.
"I'll be up there in that saddle before you know it!" she confidently replied. Justin just turned Rocket away and trotted him down the track.
"He's fast!" John exclaimed as Justin galloped Rocket a lap around the track.
"How fast?" Katie asked, unimpressed.
"Does faster than Comet count?" he looked back down at the stop watch.
"You're kidding!" Katie said in disbelief.
"How did we do?" Justin asked as he came back to the gate.
"Better than I expected!" John walked over to him and showed him the time.
"Well, of course! I'm the best! No one can beat me!" Justin said confidently, yet with a bit of attitude.
"Oh please!" she said under her breath.
"Did you say something?" Justin asked, dismounting.
"No." is all she replied.
"Katie, go up and get ready. You need to go to therapy in 20 minutes!" John yelled, taking Rocket's reigns.
Katie wheeled herself back to the house and got ready. Her mom drove her 10 minutes into town. On the way home, she couldn't wait to tell everyone the good news. She walked on her own.
"JC! I couldn't wait to tell you!" she exclaimed over the phone.
"What? I'm trying to eat, hurry up!" he grumbled.
"I was walking on my own at therapy today! Isn't that great!" she said, jumping in her chair.
"Oh my gosh! For real?" he said, with a little more enthusiasm.
"Really for real! I'm so excited! I will be able to get back up in the saddle again soon!" she added.
"That's great! Just be careful, ok?" he said, a little worried.
"I will be fine! Don't worry! I can't wait to ride Rocket!" she said, calming down.
"But, I think your dad really likes Justin. I dont think he is going to let you ride Rocket no matter what now!" JC informed her.
"Oh, thanks for being on my side! I thought you were so happy for me to get back on Rocket?" she said, her voice dropping.
"This isnt about sides, its about facts. You know the lap time he had on Rocket. He is the fastest horse on the farm and he never had that time with anyone else" he finished.
"But," she interrupted. "I have never been on Rocket, not on the track anyway. Who knows what time he could have if I rode him!" she exclaimed.
"Well, you need to worry about getting on your feet first! That is most important!" JC informed her.
"I know! I will make sure I'm walking soon! I will be up on Rocket before you know it!" she finished.
"That's what you think!" Justin said to himself as he stood outside of the screen door on the porch. He heard the whole conversation.
"Hey! I was walking on my own today!" Katie said to Justin who was outside brushing Rocket.
"Wow, thats great! You'll get to be up on Rocket soon!" Justin said, pretending to be excited.
"Are you really excited for me or are you pretending to be happy?" she questioned.
"What are you talking about? Of course I'm happy for you! Why wouldn't I be?" he replied.
"Well, earlier it seemed like you didn't want anyone else to ride him but you" she said, looking right into his baby blue eyes.
"I didn't mean for it to sound that way. I only want you to take your time. I don't want you to hurt yourself again." he said, trying to comfort her.
"I guess" she replied, looking away.
"How can I make you believe me?" He said, kneeling down to her.
She just looked at him. Not saying anything. He leaned over and kissed her. She knew that wouldn't be like him. There were sparks at first when they met, but those dwindled away as Justin got more involved in racing Rocket and as Katie worked on her therapy. Their friendship was not that far in advance. Something was definately up. And, she was going to find out what it was.
Chapter 7: Surprises
"Be careful!" JC exclaimed as he watched Katie walk down the stairs.
It was the first time he had seen her walk since her accident two months before. It was a miracle the doctors said to Katie's parents. Most people are permanantly disabled or only start to walk many months or years after an accident. But, it was Katie's determination and perserverance that made her strong. She was now proof that anything is possible.
"I'm fine!" Katie yelled at him, stepping slowly off the last step and clutching the cane that she had to use for security.
"Wow! This is so kewl!" he exclaimed.
"What is?" she questioned as she put her hand on his shoulder for balance.
"That you are standing next to me. I missed that." he looked into her eyes.
"Um," she hesitated. "Let's go outside!" she quickly changed the subject.
As they slowly walked outside, Katie noticed Justin leading Rocket out of the barn. Her father followed behind, checking Rocket before his morning exercise.
"Good morning, Katie!" Justin exclaimed. John walked back up to the house and JC walked in the barn to check on Sundown.
"Morning!" she replied, but before she could say anything more, he kissed her. She looked into the barn. JC had noticed and turned away. She also noticed that Justin had ment for JC to see the kiss. More and more everyday, Justin had turned into someone else, someone that she didnt know. JC was right about him. She didnt know him and she was sure no one else really did either.
"So, are you going to watch the morning run? he asked, mounting Rocket.
"Yeah, I guess so" she replied, looking back into the barn for JC, who finally came back outside with Sundown, all tacked and ready to go.
Lance also entered the picture. He was already mounted on Shadow and walking toward them. Shadow was huge compared to Rocket and Sundown. Lance practically looked down on Justin and JC. But, he was particularly looking down at Katie. She noticed his frowning face, realizing that he saw Justin kiss her. Never before did he care what she did or what happened to her but their was a look in his eye. A look of protection. One that she had never seen before.
"Is everyone ready?" John asked as he walked back down from the house. Justin, Lance, and JC walked the horses into the track as John helped Katie to the fence. John had planned a different kind of run for the morning. It was a test mostly for Shadow and Rocket, but Sundown was added for more competition and a bit of his own exercise.
"Let's go!" Lance yelled down the track. John dropped the flag and started the stopclock. A flash of chestnut, bay, and black horses flew by them down the stretch of the track.
They sped quicky around the track. Sundown was trailing Shadow and Rocket by a few lengths like John thought he would. All the attention was on the chestnut and the black who were head to head. And that's how they stayed all the way past the line. Rocket had kept his time from the last time, but now Shadow also had the same time. A new rivalry had started.
"Who won?" Lance questioned as he trotted Shadow back to the gate.
"I have no idea! It was nose to nose. And I was watching the clock!" John said.
"We have no idea either!" Justin added.
"I guess we'll never know!" John finished as he walked back into the barn.
Katie knew who won and to her he had gained more respect.
"Katie! Get your mother, now!" John yelled from inside the barn.
"Why? Whats wrong?" she yelled as she turned around.
"Just get her! And tell her to call the vet!" he replied. Katie paced herself with her cane up to the house. JC was right there with her and helped her up the stairs of the porch.
A few minutes later, Marie ran out of the house and into the barn. JC and Katie followed and regrouped with them and Justin and Lance at Comet's stall. Comet was many weeks late with her foal and things were going wrong. John could tell she was in pain but not the normal kind. The foal was backwards and trying to come out back first which was not possible and causing Comet alot of pain. Katie knew the danger as soon as she looked at Comet. There was a chance that one or the other might not make it. The timing of the vet was very cruicial. She waited patiently for 10 minutes until he got there. Everyone had to wait outside except for John, who had a bit of veteranarian training and stayed to help.
Thirty minutes had gone by and finally John had come back out of the barn. His clothes were full of blood and it made Katie worry. JC was on her one side and Justin on the other. Lance watched Justin closely as he stayed snugly against Katie. Katie was too worried to notice their staredowns at each other.
"Comet needed an emergency surgery to get the foal out. She is fine but worn out from all the trauma" John said. Katie sighed.
"What about the foal?" Katie questioned, looking into the barn.
"Comet's Wonder is also fine!" he exclaimed with a smile on his face.
"Wonder?" she thought out loud. "It's a filly?" she asked.
"Yes! A beautiful brown filly with a big 'ole white star on her forehead!" he smiled again.
"Can I go see them now?" Katie questioned.
"Ok, but be careful!" He replied, but she was gone before he finished. Everyone noticed as she practically ran to the stall. She now had even more inspiration to get back up and ride and now she was closer than ever.
Chapter 8: Back In The Saddle
"C'mon Katie!" Lance yelled to her from inside the track. Katie was now fully recouperated and was in the broadmare pasture playing with Wonder.
"Ok! I'm coming!" she yelled back as she opened the gate and ran across the lane to the track. She met John and Justin who were standing at the track gate ready to start training Shadow for his big race. "Why must I help anyways?" she said, kicking the dirt.
"Because you need to get back up in the saddle plus you have to ride Wonder when she gets older" he replied
"Dont you mean Rocket? I was supposed to ride Rocket, remember?" she said with sarcasim. She noticed Justin staring right through her. Lance noticed also.
"Well, Justin signed a permanent contract to ride Rocket so he will be riding him from now on" John informed her. Justin smiled.
"I was promised to ride Rocket! You said that every foal that Comet had would be mine. So, that means that Rocket is mine. I want to ride him!" she scowled.
"Yeah, anyway dad!" Lance protested from on top of Shadow. Justin looked at him with a frown.
"Officially, I own every horse in this stable except for Comet, Shadow, and Sadie" he corrected her.
"That's not fair! You promised!" she whined.
"I don't want to argue about this now! We have work to do! Lance, take him around a lap!" he demanded as he entered the track. Justin walked back up to the house. Katie watched Lance come back around with her arms crossed. She wondered what was up with her fathers sudden change of plans and she figured Justin had something to do with it.
"If what you're doing today has nothing to do with me then I want to leave!" she demanded, still angry.
"Fine! But, I need to tell both of you something first!" he replied.
"What's that?" Lance replied as he trotted back up to them.
"I've entered Justin and Rocket in the Luxemberg" he started.
"Why?" Lance said, now with the attitude.
"Because, the race will be too easy with just Shadow. The only challenge he has is Palisades. I've added Rocket for more competition" he finished.
"Don't you mean Justin entered him? He's just a hothead punk who is after my sister for all the wrong reasons!" Lance accused.
"What?" John replied, shocked.
"Nothing. He doesn't know what he is talking about!" Katie protected herself.
"You, just stay away from him!" John pointed at Katie.
"Damn you, Lance! You're gonna pay!" Justin said to himself after hearing what Lance said.
Lance cantered Shadow back down the track and Katie stormed off to the house.
"Be careful!" JC called to Katie as she mounted Sundown. It was her first time on a horse since the accident.
"I am so sick of hearing that! I'm fine!" she exclaimed. John, Marie, Kelly and Lance on Shadow were also at the track. Justin had mysteriously dissapeared for the day.
"Trot him around for a little. Get used to him again!" John yelled up to her.
"Why must I go through this racing training? It's not like I'm going to race for another three years now!" she snapped.
"Just in case anything comes up. If there is in need of an emergency switch of jockeys then I will know that I can use you!" he informed her.
"Fine!" she grumbled and trotted off.
"I wish Justin were here. I could of trained with him today! Does anyone know where he is?" John asked everyone.
"No, he was gone early this morning. I woke up and heard the rental car leaving" Lance replied.
"Thats weird. He usually doesnt just take off!" Marie wondered.
"Katie, come here! We are going to experiment!" John called to her.
"We're gonna what?" she questioned.
"Lance, get off of Shadow," he said, looking at Lance. "Katie, now you mount up on Shadow" he added, holding onto Sundown's bridle.
"Are you crazy?" Katie exclaimed.
"He will never let her stay on! I don't want her to get hurt again!" Lance protested.
"She can do it!" John replied and helped Katie mount Shadow. But, like they said, Shadow didnt like the new rider and had became uncontrollable. Katie jumped off while Shadow continued to buck and kick.
"I told you!" Lance yelled.
"Try again!" John yelled back, grabbing Shadow's reigns.
"No!" Katie said sternly.
"Get back up!" John demanded. Katie mounted and the same thing happened. This time she ran out the track and into the barn. JC followed.
"Are you ok?" JC asked as Katie sat down on a bale of straw.
"I'm fine!" she scowled at him.
"Why did he make you ride Shadow? He knows how uncontrollable he is!" JC questioned.
"Your guess is as good as mine. He wants me to be like Lance, perfect in everything. The accident only made him worse." Katie added.
"Katie, get back out here!" John yelled from out in the track.
"Here we go again!" Katie exclaimed as she walked back outside. She noticed that Justin had finally showed up and Rocket was tacked and in the track.
"Would it be too much trouble to mount up on Rocket?" her father said sarcastically.
"Why Rocket?" Justin questioned nervously.
"I just want to see how good her skills are on different mounts" he replied. Katie jumped on Rocket. It was her first time on him. His gaites were as smooth as Comet's. It was like riding her all over again.
"This is awesome!" Katie yelled excitedly after cantering Rocket around the track.
"You look great!" John complimented her. "You'll be ready soon!"
"I'm still riding Rocket aren't I?" Justin nervously asked again.
"Yes, don't worry!" John assured him but kept his eyes on Katie.
"Are we going to start running soon? Shadow is getting impatient!" Lance called from ontop of a prancing Shadow.
"Ok! Let's get this show on the road!" John yelled, grabbing his flag and stopwatch as he walked into the track.